What is Primary Deviance
Stated simply, primary deviance is a term that describes deviant behavior in an individual. The individual may go against the cultural and social norms that is prevalent in the society. Primary deviance is a part of the theory of deviant identity formation put forth by one of the pioneers in sociology, Edwin Lemert. It was basically, Lemert, who conceptualized the idea of primary and secondary deviance. To study any of the previous deviance, one needs to understand what is a deviant behavior. As stated earlier, breaking established norms and rules forms an integral part of deviant behavior. What are these norms and rules? Norms, in any human society, are several behavioral standards that one must follow, as a member of the society. It is not necessary that these norms are based on moral principles.
The norms may be even without any logic and even irrational but since they have been a part of the culture, they are included in the behavioral standards. You can think of many of our manners and behaviors that are not logically very consistent but we do follow them!! So norms are cultural entities that keep shifting, changing and evolving as a society grows. Violating these cultural norms is what is called as deviance. It is a complete failure to confirm with the established laws, rules and regulations. The primary deviance definition can be elaborated and modified for different societies. Since social norms in one culture are different as opposed to others, primary deviance may have several interpretations in different cultures. Deviant behaviors like theft or robbery can attract huge negative social reaction. Criminal behavior is a perfect example of primary deviance.
However, if one is doing something that has little or no social implications, that behavior is not considered to be deviant. Deviance is independent of time and place, as what is perceived deviant behavior in one society, may not be considered to be the same in other. Also, deviance is a relative term, as when an individual kills someone, the government treats them guilty of murder, but if done in an act of self defense or during wars, killing may not be considered to be a legal issue, sufficient to put someone behind the bars. So in essence, the two theories, primary and secondary deviance can be defined as follows.
* Primary Deviance: Engaging in an act that violate societal rules and laws. In this deviance, an individual doesn’t changes his or her self identity.
* Secondary Deviance: In this deviance, the actions taken by an individual are ‘labelled’ by the society. This subsequently affects the future behavior of individual and he or she continues to do the same deviant behavior. For instance, a robber after being infamous as a robber, doesn’t find place in society and continues to live with the tag which the society has given. This compels him or her to identify with the deviant identity and to continue that behavior.
There are various theories that have been suggested by sociologists for primary deviance behavior. For example, a theory states that existence of primary deviance is only possible in terms of cultural norms. For example, couple of decades ago, piercings and tattoos were not as per societal norms but now they’re no more deviant behavior.
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